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The Biggest Sales Mistake You're Currently Making is Costing You More Than Money

Figuring out why you’re not able to close sales is one of the biggest challenges sales managers come across. It almost always creates a chain reaction that leads to sinking productivity and bad customer experience. 

If you’re feeling stuck with your sales efforts and need to get out of your head, this is the article for you. 

In it, our CEO Adam Hempenstall shares his advice on reshaping your sales team by providing examples from his past business ventures. Read on to find out what is the biggest sales mistake you’re currently making and how to learn from it. 

The sales mistake that snowballs into years of lost deals

I often find that looking back on my life, I can never remember any mistakes I’ve made, probably because I learned from them and consider them more as lessons. Now does this translate to everyone’s business dealings? Probably not. 

Luckily, our CEO remembers the biggest sales mistake he’s ever made and wants to make the best of it by teaching you how to avoid it. After all, learning from other people’s mistakes is always more fun. 

His biggest mistake was selling to the wrong people

How do you avoid making this mistake? 

You can, of course, take the safe route of creating a buyer persona for every target audience you have. Once you do that, just make sure your sales reps have an in-depth understanding of all of them. 

This is what most sales and marketing teams already do. And over time, as the market changes and your company grows, you re-visit those buyer personas and shape them accordingly. 

But what if we told you that there’s a better way of doing this? 

When you’re working with buyer personas, there is still a lot of guesswork involved. That’s why everyone who requests a demo from us is asked to share about their current proposal process. 

not giving a demo is a sales mistake

It gives us great insight into who will turn out to be a great customer and who will most likely look for a different solution. 

For example, if someone writes that their company still uses Word to create business proposals and they want to upgrade to a tool that will help them speed up the process, that’s guaranteed success. 

If you don’t have a questionnaire like this one, you can still rely on your gut. Here’s a great example from our CEO.

Before Better Proposals, Sabrina (my business partner) and I ran a business automation company, meaning we were building custom systems for different companies. 

So we get recommended to this cleaning company that’s doing quite well. They had a big network of cleaners and needed a system for managing them, as well as a booking system for clients. 

On paper, this was the perfect client for us. They had the money, their business was booming and they knew exactly what their pain point was. They couldn’t find the right system and needed something custom.

So when I went in, I expected things to go smoothly. But when the meeting ended, I get a call from the friend who recommended us and he tells me that the owner of the cleaning company wasn’t impressed because I looked really scruffy. 

Basically, he didn’t like my long hair. I do admit in hindsight that I looked a bit stupid, but my appearance doesn’t have anything to do with my solution. In the end, they ignored us for about a year and then asked us to come back and work with them. 

So we cracked on and immediately regretted it, like within a month. Now, bear in mind that these types of projects take about 4-5 months. But we didn’t want to continue working with them because they were just a nightmare so we gave them their money back and walked away. 

I should have listened to my gut and walked away as soon as I heard the hair comment. They were the wrong people and you can extrapolate that example across all walks of life. 

So demos are the key to success?

sales success

Yes and no. 

The thing is, we work really hard on our product and make sure that anyone can use it, no matter their technical knowledge. 

If you can post an image to Facebook, you can create a stunning proposal in our editor. 

Since we firmly believe this, our stance was that you could sign up for Better Proposals (for a free trial) you could explore the product and buy it on your own, meaning you didn’t need to speak to a person once in this process.

However, we had a lot of interest in demos so we had to allow certain people to have access to them. 

With a little bit of time to look back on it. I think there's part of me that feels like it does open doors that you otherwise can't open. We've got massive publicly traded companies and some of the biggest brands in the world that use our product now. And I'm relatively certain that there's a good chunk of those that wouldn't be able to buy our product without speaking to somebody. 

So it does allow you to sell to people that you otherwise wouldn't. But I would say that in some sense we still very much see ourselves as a self-serve product, we still make sure to retain that experience. 

If you do demos, but find it hard to close deals, the issue is most likely the problem we addressed at the start. You’re targeting the wrong people. This is especially true if you’re focusing on outbound sales. 

Should you give up on outbound?

inbound and outbound sales mistakes

This largely depends on what you sell. 

We’re not saying to go ahead and fire your outbound team, but if they’re leaving on their own, it’s time for you to reevaluate the roles you gave to your sales reps. 

But you don’t have to take my word for it, here’s what our CEO thinks:

Inbound and outbound require very different skills. In general, if you're working on outbound, you need to be the type of person that can deal with the large amounts of rejection or the total lack of feedback that you get. 

You can make 100 calls and speak to two people. That's going to put you in a very negative state if you're not prepared to deal with it. 

When working on outbound, it’s essential to continually motivate your sales reps. That’s the most important job the sales manager has. 

If you see that your sales reps are struggling with outbound, move them to inbound and give them that confidence push that comes with closing sales. 

If you’re committed to doing outbound, take some time to understand how to make your product or service more appealing. 

In most cases, you’ll see that it’s an issue of not understanding how much good positioning can affect your ability to close. 

Can positioning make or break your sales efforts?

sales positioning

Of course, it can. Good positioning is essential for any brand. Without it, neither your employees nor your customers will know what to think of your solution. 

If you have your eyes on your competitors and are trying to do everything they can, you’re not providing your audience with a single reason to opt for your brand. 

As this is the time to learn from others’ mistakes, let’s take a walk down memory lane with our CEO.

I would say that our long-gone web design agency is a great example of bad positioning. There was a period of time there where we didn't really know what we were, and it was really clear we weren't necessarily a design firm. 

All of our competitors had kind of moved into the WordPress side of things, so they were able to do a lot more than us for a lot less money. We, on the other hand, were still selling custom stuff and we didn't really fit in. 

Because of that, what ended up happening is we were getting undercut because we would charge like £4,000 for a custom website, whereas somebody else could achieve realistically the same sort of quality of work, for about a quarter of the price. 

So there was no real benefit to it either. It does sound better to have it custom, and there were a few small advantages, but not enough to justify the price. 

But things quickly turned around when they realized that going into business automation was the right thing to do. 

On the other hand, a good example of positioning was when we started doing business automation work, which was also custom, but provided amazing results. 

We had this guarantee that helped us win business. We would start by taking a 10% deposit, and proceed to design the custom solution. Then we would provide screenshots for the two or three major flows that were the biggest problem for their business. 

That way, if the client felt that we didn’t understand their business or that we had missed the point, we would give them their money back and we could just walk away. 

No one ever took us up on it. Not one single person, and every single time we did this, it was a home run. That’s because they were the perfect client. 

Let’s finish off strong

coming out on top of sales

In order to reward those of you that made it all the way through, here are another 2 huge sales mistakes you should fix right away.

  1. Your product is wrong, meaning it doesn't do what your customers want. 
  1. You have a stupid process. 

If you’re eager to change your sales process, you need to talk to the people that are getting those rejection emails - your sales reps. 

That’s the first step. They will be able to tell you if there is anything majorly wrong with your sales process that needs to change. 

After that, take a long and hard look at your product

It could be the way that the product is presented, the features, what it does, the service, time scales, pricing, there's a whole number of different things. 

Don’t think that you need to lower the price of it, you just need to find a better way of justifying the value. 

That could be a case of coming up with a really creative guarantee. For example, what I was saying earlier about the business automation stuff, we were asking people that had never spent 15, 20, £30,000 on software before to come up with 30 grand and just trust a bunch of kids to make it for them. 

They didn't even have anything tangible to fall back on. So we looked at that and thought, well, how can we make this an absolute no-brainer? 

So we just asked for a very small deposit. It's definitely manageable. That proves you've got the money, or at least you've got access to it, and that they’ll pay it to solve the problem. 

And once we'd shown them a demonstration of how we could solve that problem, they were committed. 

Lastly, the problem could be in your process.

Pretend that you’re an interested potential customer and go through your own sales cycle looking for any issues. 

If your emails are confusing and your landing pages require a manual, it’s no wonder people are leaving your sales funnel without converting. 

Key Takeaways

The biggest mistake you can make in sales is not knowing your audience and continually trying to sell to the wrong people. If your sales are falling through, this is what your focus should immediately go to. 

After that, make sure that there are no issues with your product or service. It needs to live up to its promise and should be able to provide real benefits to your clients. 

Lastly, make sure that your process is easy to get through. If your prospects have to jump through hoops in order to buy your solution, they’ll quickly give up. 

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Vanja Maganjic's profile image
Vanja Maganjic is an experienced writer with a unique passion for creating content that helps brands connect with their customers. She believes in brands that stand up to the man and thinks that storytelling is an essential part of what makes us human. Her long term goal is to become the cool auntie that gives out family-sized Kit Kats on Halloween.